# Blasius solution. Chapter Boundary layer over a semi-infinite flat plate

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1 Chapter 19 Blasius solution 191 Boundary layer over a semi-infinite flat plate Let us consider a uniform and stationary flow impinging tangentially upon a vertical flat plate of semi-infinite length Fig 191) Furthermore, assume that the fluid is moving at the constant velocity in the x direction in the half-space x < 0 and that the flat plate is placed along the half-plane y = 0, x > 0 with which the previous flow interacts On the basis of the solution for an impulsive flow over an infinite plate we can suppose that the transition of the velocity field to a zero value along the plate can take place in a thin boundary layer of thickness much smaller than the distance from the origin of the plate Then, we can consider that the plate from a point in the vicinity of the boundary looks like as if it were extended from to + Therefore, we can suppose that the horizontal velocity will depend on a dimensionless quantity similar to 183), but with the substitution t = x, which represents the time during which the flow has felt the presence of the 127

2 128 Franco Mattioli niversity of Bologna) Fig 191: The thickness of the boundary layer along a semi-infinite plate increases with the square of the distance from the edge For each quadrupication of the distance from the edge of the plate we have to double the distance from the plate in order to find the same velocity The vertical profile of the velocity, shown in Fig 192 is similar, but not equal, to the profile relative to an impulsive flow over an infinite plate shown in Fig 181 plate Thus, we can suppose that the solution will depend on the nondimensional parameter ) 1/2 η = y 191) νx Here the factor 2 has been omitted because it is no longer useful for the simplification of the subsequent calculations Let us further suppose that the behavior of the flow near the edge of the plate, were the previous arguments are no longer valid, is irrelevant for the behavior of the flow far from it Indeed, the whole problem depends on two nondimensional parameters, the second of which might be y/x We assume that far from the origin this last parameter is uninfluential The sum of these three hypothesis allow us to solve the problem far from the edge with a very good approximation 192 The equations of motion If we consider a homogeneous fluid which is not particularly restrictive within the thin boundary layer), according to the equations of the horizontal momentum for a stationary flow derivable from 1611) and the two-dimensional continuity equation derivable from 83) become u u x + v u y = 1 p ρ x + ν ) 2 u x u y 2, 192)

3 Principles of Fluid Dynamics wwwfluiddynamicsit) 129 u v x + v v y = 1 p 2 ) ρ y + ν v x v y 2, 193) u x + v = 0 y 194) The continuity equation 194) can provide information about the magnitude of the transversal velocity Let us consider a rectangle including the boundary layer with a long side resting on the plate a short side in the transversal direction We see immediately that the flow entering the rectangle in the horizontal direction from the side closer to the beginning of the plate is greater than the flow exiting from the other short side In fact, as the flow moves far from the origin, the plate manifests its presence by reducing the mean velocity of the flow parallel to it inside the rectangle For continuity the transversal velocities along the long side of the rectangle not in contact with the plate must give rise to an outgoing flow compensating the reduction of the flow in the parallel direction The transversal velocities start from zero at the plate and increase with the distance from it, reaching the maximum value along the farthest long side of the rectangle The global flow is thus moved away from the plate, even if it remains essentially horizontal This effect, which is of secondary importance, was completely absent in the impulsive flow The ratio between the mean transversal velocity and the mean velocity parallel to the plate is of the order of the ratio between the thickness of the boundary layer and the distance from the origin A comparison of the terms depending on the velocity in 192) and in 193) shows that the latter are smaller than the former The pressure term p/ y)/ρ must be of the same order of magnitude of the other terms of 193) But far from the plate the pressure is constant Hence, within the boundary layer, if the variations of the pressure are small in the transversal direction y, they must be small in the parallel direction x as well It follows that the pressure term in 192) can be neglected The system formed by 192) and 194) is a system of two equations in two unknowns It can be solved providing as a result the components of the horizontal velocity Then, 193) can be used to derive the small perturbations in the pressure field On the other hand the second derivative of the parallel velocity in the transversal direction 2 u/ y 2 far from the origin and close to the boundary of the plate is clearly much larger than the second derivative in the parallel direction 2 u/ x 2, so that the latter term can be omitted as well

4 130 Franco Mattioli niversity of Bologna) This last hypothesis is surely not valid near the edge of the plate where the velocity at y = 0 changes sharply from to 0 when x varies from 0 to 0+ Therefore, the equations of motion can be reduced in the form u u x + v u y = u ν 2 y2, 195) u x + v = 0 y 196) Further simplifications are impossible At least one of the two nonlinear terms of 195) must be important, in order to balance the viscous term, which obviously cannot be negligible in the thin boundary layer The problem in thus intrinsically nonlinear Indeed, it is one of the simplest nonlinear problems encountered in fluid dynamics The boundary conditions are u = 0, for y = 0, 197) v = 0, for y = 0, 198) u, for y 199) 193 The Blasius equation The second basic hypothesis discussed in section [191] can be summarize by the expression u = gη), 1910) where η because of 191) can be written as η = y δx) 1911) with so that δx) = ) 1/2 νx, 1912) η x = η δ δ x, 1913) η y = 1 δ 1914)

5 Principles of Fluid Dynamics wwwfluiddynamicsit) 131 The continuity equation 196) allows us to write the two components of the velocity by means of a streamfunction as in E1) E2) The momentum equation 195) becomes ψ y u = + ψ y, 1915) v = ψ x 1916) 2 ψ x y ψ x 2 ψ y 2 = ψ ν 3 y ) On the other hand the streamfunction can be expressed in the following form y η η ψ = u dy = δ u dη = δ gη) dη = δfη), 1918) where From 1916), 1918) and 1913) it follows that gη) = df dη 1919) v = ψ x = f dδ ) dx + δ f = dδ f η df ) 1920) x dx dη From 1915) and 1918) or 1910) and 1919) we have u = ψ y = df dη 1921) The derivatives of higher order of ψ can be obtained similarly 2 ψ x y = dδ f η df ) dx y dη 2 ψ y 2 = δ = η δ d 2 f dη 2 dδ dx, 1922) d 2 f dη 2, 1923) 3 ψ y 3 = δ 2 d 3 f dη )

6 132 Franco Mattioli niversity of Bologna) Inserting 1920) 1924) into 1917), and noting that from 1912) we arrive at ν δ dδ dx = 1 2, 1 2 f d2 f dη 2 + d3 f 3 = ) dη Thus, we have traced back our system of partial differential equations 195) 196) to an ordinary equation, although of the third order This equation is nonlinear, as expected It is referred to as the Blasius equation after the name of the author that discovered it The boundary conditions to satisfy are df dη df dη f = 0, for η = 0,, 1926) = 0, for η = 0,, 1927) 1, for η 1928) The last condition 1928) is 199) worked out through 1910) and 1919) Condition 1927) is a reworking of 197), always on the basis of 1910) and 1919) Condition 1926), instead, derives from 1920), because for η = 0 the first and the last terms vanish This second term vanishes both because η = 0 and because of 1927) 194 Numerical solution of the Blasius equation An analytical solution in closed form uniformly convergent in the whole domain is not available However, the equation can be solved numerically with the wanted accuracy Fig 192) To say that the solution depends on the ratio between the y-coordinate and the root square of the x-coordinate implies that the thickness of the boundary layer increases with x Fig 191) If we define such a thickness as the distance at which the velocity differs for less than 1% with respect to the velocity at infinity, then we have ) νx 1/2 δ l = 49,

7 Principles of Fluid Dynamics wwwfluiddynamicsit) 133 δ l νx ) 1/2 4 ) 1/2 η = y νx u/ Fig 192: Blasius solution for a semi-infinite plate The horizontal dotted line indicates the thickness of the boundary layer, where the velocity is equal to 99% of the interior velocity corresponding to η = 49 This confirms one of the basic hypotheses, ie, that the thickness of the boundary layer increases very slowly Problem 191 Establish the order of magnitude the terms present in the momentum equation 195) Comment When y = 0 all the terms are evidently zero sing the Blasius solution we see that they increase progressively as we move away from the plate This means that it is impossible to assign an order of magnitude to the various terms of the equation valid everywhere The structure of the advective terms is of the kind a, and a b, with b slightly greater than a and a > a b Although the second term is smaller than the first one, to neglect it would only worsen the solution without any gain Problem 192 Evaluate the derivative of v with respect to y for y = 0 Solution From 1920) we obtain v y = dδ f η df ) δ dx η dη = δ dδ dx ηd2 f dη 2

8 134 Franco Mattioli niversity of Bologna) Therefore, for η = 0 we have v/ y = 0 Thus the transversal velocity increases very slowly in the vicinity of the plate Problem 193 Evaluate the stress per unit area at the surface of the semi-infinite plate Solution From the definition of surface stress T s = µ u = µ d2 f η y dη 2 y = µ δ y=0 η=0 d 2 f dη µ δ η=0 Comment Since δ x 1/2, then T s x 1/2 The velocity fields around a finite plate can be assumed as essentially similar to those encountered in a plate of semi-infinite length This depends on the fact that the equations of motion are of parabolic type, so that what happens up to a certain distance does not depend on what happens at a greater distance Thus, the total stress on a finite plate can be calculated integrating the tangential stress of the Blasius solution over the sole length of the plate This theoretical value turns out to be in agreement with the experimental results Problem 194 Evaluate the total force F on the two faces of a plate of length l Solution We can assume that the solution of the problem is the same we have found for a semi-infinite plate between x = 0 and x = l From the solution of problem [193] and 1912) we obtain l F = ρ 3/2 ν 1/2 x 1/2 dx = 1328 ρµ 3 l ) 1/2 0 Indeed, the Blasius solution breaks down at a certain distance from the origin It can be applied successfully to describe the field around a plate of finite length or in the first part of a longer plate the semi-infinite length being in any case an unrealizable abstraction) 195 Flow between two parallel plates Let us consider the stationary flow between two semi-infinite flat plates placed in the positive half space Let us suppose that the flow at the intake is uniform What we see is the formation of a boundary layer of increasing thickness with the distance from the intake The velocity profile, which is constant at the intake, at a short distance is still almost constant in the central region between

9 Principles of Fluid Dynamics wwwfluiddynamicsit) 135 the two boundary layers Then, at a greater distance, it becomes more and more rounded because of the contribution of the transversal velocities generated within the boundary layers, which, for continuity, give rise to an intensification of the longitudinal velocity At a certain distance the two boundary layers merge in a single viscous flow with a velocity profile approaching the parabolic profile of the Poiseuille flow between two infinite parallel plates considered in section [121] Therefore, the Poiseuille solution for two infinite plates is no longer a simple theoretical solution of a rather unrealistic character, but the asymptotic solution observable in a flow between two plates of finite length The dynamics of a pipe of circular section of semi-infinite or finite length is similar It is possible to prove that the parabolic profile is reached at a distance equal to 008 R, where the Reynolds number is referred to the half-distance between the two plates Thus, for R = such ratio is equal to 80, and grows to 200 for R = Similar results hold for a pipe of circular section The intake effects extend to a very large distance in a viscous laminar flow 196 Nature of the Blasius solution The Blasius solution is based, in the present derivation, on three hypothesis suggested by the observation or experimentally verifiable The transition of the velocity field to zero occurs in a layer so thin that it cannot be easily seen We have the impression that both in air and water the flow slides over the solid surfaces without friction Only the study of the laminar flows in capillary vessels suggests that the boundary condition for a viscous fluid must be given by a zero velocity The extension of this law to every flow is not trivial The impulsive flow suggests the possibility of a similar solution far from the edge of the plate The assumption that the border of the plate cannot generate effects able to propagate along the plate can be verified only a posteriori It is possible to find more accurate solutions of the boundary layer equations by a series expansion approach But the starting point of the mathematical solution relies on an experimental support 197 Historical notes and essential bibliography The laminar boundary layer was discovered by Ludwig Prandtl in 1904, in the context of complicated flows around three-dimensional bodies [27] The solution for the semi-infinite plate was obtained by Heinrich Blasius [2] in 1908

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